Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vancouver Twitch

Western Scrub-jay
The world is such a small place. By a strange coincidence and through Bob Lee back in the UK I managed to meet up today with Rob Catchpole, once a regular Brandon Marsh birder and someone that I'd lost contact with when he moved back to Vancouver over 18 months ago.

Having met up at The Waterfront rail station at 10am it wasn't long before Rob had me on a bus heading for the east-side of town in search of a local rarity. Some 20 minutes later we arrived at what seemed to be a normal built up area with plenty of housing and playing fields. Within the area was a community allotment which surrounded a small pond and it was here that we began our search for a Western Scrub-Jay, which Rob had last seen in December.

The northernmost extent of the Western Scrub-Jay’s range is typically the southwestern region of Washington stretching up to Seattle, and so finding one this far north is highly unusual. You can view a map of this species 2010 distribution in Washington on eBird.

House Finch
During our 45 minutes searching for the illusive bird we managed 2 Northern Flicker, several House Finch, good numbers of American Robin, Song Sparrow, and one of my favorite small birds, Ruby Crown Kinglet. At one stage a Merlin was seen shooting through pursued by several Crows. What I found completely surreal about the whole thing, not least the species we were encountering, and baring in mind we were literally in a built up area of Vancouver, was when Rob pointed out a Bald Eagle nest, with a bird actually sitting within! I was in awe of the whole thing.

Our illusive Jay was finally located, much to my delight, skulking within a clutch of trees, Rob tells me roughly where he'd spotted it on his last visit, and so my first Canadian sighting of this colourful visitor was in the bag.

For our afternoon treat we took the bus back across to Stanley Park, which I later realised Rob knows extremely well, for a good scan around. On arrival we made our way towards Beaver Lake which is located within the interior of the park, picking up Brown Creeper, Varied Thrush, Golden Crowned-kinglet, Hairy Woodpecker and Spotted Towhee.

Beaver Lake is a small lake, mostly covered by lily pads, home to fish and water birds. As of 1997, its surface area was 3.95 hectares, but the lake is slowly shrinking in size. Here we connected with Red Wing Blackbird, our first Wood Ducks of the day and 3 stunning Bufflehead. The biggest surprise though according to Rob were the 2 White Fronted Geese, which we located within a small flock of Canada.

Red Necked Sapsucker
We eventually arrived at a well elevated area of woodland which overlooks English Bay, and due to a storm destroying many trees a few years earlier, had opened up into a wonderful diverse habitat. The next 45 minutes, with the sun finally showing through, turned out to be an amazing birding experience. Four species of Woodpecker, Pileated, Downy, Hairy and Red-Necked Sapsucker, plus Red Breasted Nuthatch, more Bald Eagle and an amazing sight of Anna's Hummingbird, which for me came totally out of the blue, and produced my first lifer of this visit!

Finally, a walk around the bay area produced similar large flocks, as reported in my last post on Sunday, of Barrow's Goldeneye and Surf Scoter, plus Common and Red Breasted Merganser, Harlequin Duck, Lesser and Great Scaup, Common Loon, Double Crested and Pelagic Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, 20+ Black Oystercatcher and a small flock of around 20 Sanderling. Glaucous Winged Gull were in good numbers today along with Herring and Mew, a truly superb day out!